National Breastfeeding Week

All four of my children were / are breastfed. For me nursing always came easily. Naturally. I never experienced any of the trials I was warned of prior to having a baby. No major issues with milk supply or nipple irritation. I never used creams or accessories, and for the most part, never endured much pain or struggle even in very the beginning. I ate what I wanted, pumped when I was able, and supplemented when need be. For me, it has always been a matter of convenience just as much as it was about bonding and overall nourishment. It meant that no matter what, I always had food for my baby. One less thing I had to stress or consider while rushing out the door in a hurry. I never minded waking in the middle of the night, or putting aside what I was doing at the moment to feed my baby. With my first born I sat dutifully in empty bed rooms, in nicely assigned plush chairs positioned in quiet corners while visiting friends or family, listening to the hushed tones of so many parties that seemed to bloom while I nursed in private quarters. Overhearing conversations and birthday songs from afar. Later, a couple years down the line, having children 16 months apart, I quickly gave up on any sense of privacy. I nursed openly, when and where I could. On the front porch, in the car in hot summer parking lots, at the park, while grocery shopping. Wherever. These days I’m afraid anyone from the post man to the neighbor kid is familiar with the sight of me with a baby at my breast.

In short, breastfeeding has always felt like the very best option for me and my babies. I nurse them for as long as it feels right for the both of us. A time frame that has varied with each of my children. Yet never one I let myself feel pressured by.

And as much as I appreciate what nursing has been for me, I hate to see even a shadow of judgement fall on those that choose not to. Especially on social media. I remember reading a blog years ago in which the author unveiled a long winded apology to her readers a few weeks after giving birth, confessing that she was not in fact able to breastfeed like she had hoped and preached about in the months leading up to the baby’s arrival. Reading it, I remember feeling sorry for her only due to the fact that she feared her audience would berate her in any way for that kind of personal decision. But the reality is, it happens all the time. Too often we as women make the mistake of defining ourselves in ways that divide us instead of embracing the overall notion that we are all in this together. That at the end of the day the simple fact of raising children is the tie that binds. That everybody is doing the best they can given their lot and circumstance. It’s one thing to be there for support and motivation in regards to things we might feel strongly about – if breastfeeding is one, then by all means let us share stories and advice to new mothers on the fence, offer up praise and support in place of shunning those that don’t fit whatever ideals we have molded in our own moral mother code handbooks. Because if there is one thing having a house full of children teaches you, it’s humility. So many things I use to turn my nose or scoff at when I had one child are worlds away from where I stand now. People do things differently, households find their own rhythms and for the most part, I would argue that people raised on a foundation of love have a pretty good chance at becoming well rounded, decent human beings. When you think about the people that color our lives, people we cherish and relate to, we were all raised on different ideals. Some come from working mothers, breastfed and not, some with money and some without, in homes that embrace religion and homes that don’t, some with fathers at their side and those without, on so many circumstances far outside of the ones that rooted each of us in our most formative years and somehow wind up making them the people that mean a lot to us in the end.

So yes, breastfeeding is a beautiful thing. Let’s express and share it as such. But so is motherhood in general. On the whole. Whether it includes cloth or disposable diapers, home or hospital births, bottles or breast, it’s a short and fleeting time. Let’s be sure we make the most of it with the people we are sharing it with.

8 Responses

  • Great post! I’m a first time mom and have had major struggles with breastfeeding. Luckily I’m blessed with a wonderful supply (and equally wonderful babe), but I’ve been dealing with a great deal of nipple pain from the process which has lead me to the use of a nipple shield while breastfeeding. Even the use of this infinitesimally thin piece of silicone has made me feel so stigmatized and like I am “cheating” when it comes to breastfeeding. I do my best to remember that the important thing is that my son is growing, healthy and happy! Thank you for this wonderfully written and encouraging piece <3

  • Tell it! I love it. Much like you so much has changed since my first baby (my fourth is only a few weeks older than yours) and I, too, had no real issues with breastfeeding (aside from some mastitis here and there). When my last baby ended up unexpectedly in the NICU for a couple weeks after his birth, I had to let so much go regarding my expectations. How “I’d always done it” with the first three was suddenly turned on it’s head. It really did help me see in a way that I had not been previously as clear to me, that every birth, every mother and every baby is SO very different. We all have situations and experiences and circumstances that shape our parenting and mothering that we have no clue about until we’re actually in the thick of it. I have been very humbled by motherhood.

  • Such a wonderful post and something that needs to be said more often than it is. Motherhood has certainly taught me humility. Breastfeeding my boys was a pleasure and a very special gift for us, but I know that everyone’s story is different and we all need to keep that in mind. There are so many times I’ve done things or experienced something in motherhood that I’d never thought would be me. Now I remind myself of this and tell myself that it’s not my place to judge because everybody has a different path.

  • I feel like having 5 children has enabled me to experience many different aspects of caring for a baby. I bottle fed my first two and nursed the other three. I’ve given birth in hospitals and at home. I’ve been induced, medicated and have had completely natural births. I’ve used cloth and disposable diapers. There is no “right way” it’s what is right for you at the time. Thanks for such a great post!

  • Good post – my daughter could not physically breastfeed – there was just no milk. She gave it a good shot but it became a real issue about the baby getting nourishment. Now she is pregnant again (8 months) and her breast are leaking – something that didn’t happen the first time around so she’s thinking – maybe this time it will work… She has really endured some sarcastic, righteous comments – right to her face – about not breastfeeding and it hurts. Not all women can breastfeed. Her feelings were compounded by the fact that her husband’s aunt wrote THE book on breastfeeding – literally the all time best selling book on breastfeeding and has traveled the world teaching and talking about breastfeeding. My daughter is still – god, I hope she never finds out I didn’t breastfeed! She should not feel so bad about this! Thanks for looking at the other side. Loving The Ma Books! – Great job!

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